Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is an ancient healing method that may ease back pain, neck pain, headaches and other issues. It uses suction to pull on your skin and increase blood flow to the affected area. Cupping causes bruising and can lead to skin infection. There’s mixed evidence on the benefits of cupping, but the treatment risks are generally low.

What is cupping therapy?

Cupping therapy is an ancient healing technique that some people use to ease pain. A provider places cups on your back, stomach, arms, legs or other parts of your body. A vacuum or suction force inside the cup pulls your skin upward.

Cupping therapy is a form of traditional medicine that originated in China and West Asia. People have practiced this method for thousands of years.

Other names for cupping therapy include cupping, cup therapy and suction cup therapy.

How does cupping work?

Experts are still exploring how cupping eases pain and disease symptoms. There isn’t a lot of research on the therapy.

Suction from cupping draws fluid into the treated area. This suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under your skin. Your body replenishes the cupped areas with healthier blood flow and stimulates proper and normal healing at a cellular level. Because of this effect, some people think that cupping releases toxins.

How do healthcare providers perform cupping?

There are different ways to do cupping. The steps vary slightly depending on the chosen method. Your provider will leave the cups in place for several minutes. Some treatments involve briefly moving the cups to stretch and massage the area.

Cupping methods include:

  • Dry:Your provider heats the inside of each cup. The traditional method involves setting an alcohol-soaked cotton ball aflame. The heat sends oxygen out of the cup, creating a vacuum. A more modern approach involves using a suction device to remove air from the cups. The vacuum force pulls your skin up into the cup.
  • Running:This is like dry cupping. But before beginning, your provider will apply lotion or oil to your skin. Once they place the cups, they’ll gently move them in different directions over the affected area of your body.
  • Bleeding:Your provider uses a needle to lightly puncture your skin before placing the cups. This allows for the release of toxins through the suctioned blood captured in the cup.

Depending on the treatment, your provider may place multiple cups on your skin. On average, providers use between three and five cups, though they might use up to seven. It’s uncommon to get more than seven cups in a single treatment.

What type of cups do they use?

Most providers use glass or plastic cups, but cups may also be:

  • Reduces pain and inflammation.
  • Decreases muscle tightness.
  • Improves blood flow.
  • Increases range of motion.

What should I expect after cupping?

The suction force from cupping breaks open tiny blood vessels called capillaries under your skin. You’ll have red, round cupping therapy marks that should fade in a week or two. Although these marks will look like bruises, they’re not true bruises that injure muscle fibers.

Does cupping hurt?

Cupping shouldn’t cause pain, though you may experience some skin tightness during the procedure. After cupping therapy, you may feel bruised and slightly sore, but you shouldn’t have severe discomfort.

What are the potential benefits of cupping therapy?

Many people who’ve had cupping therapy report that it:

  • Reduces pain and inflammation.
  • Decreases muscle tightness.
  • Improves blood flow.
  • Increases range of motion.


What conditions can cupping treat?

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains.

Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

Cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:

  • lower back pain
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • headache and migraine
  • knee pain
  • shingles
  • facial paralysis
  • cough and dyspnea
  • acne
  • lumbar disc herniation
  • cervical spondylosis
  • brachialgia, the pain produced by a trapped nerve in the neck
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • hypertension
  • diabetes mellitus
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma